Toys – What Is Appropriate ??

February 6, 2017 9:40 pm



Despite considerable government regulation of the toy industry, injuries related to the use of toys continue to be a significant childhood problem.

Parents and the pediatric community – often unaware of how toys receive their developmental and safety labeling and the degree to which age-labeling of toys can be discretionary – rely on the industry and regulations for direction and protection. In the face of these efforts, one third of these injuries occur in children under 5 years with a prominent peak-injury at 2 years of age.  In addition, there is a spike in injuries during the summer months, and boys are injured more often than girls.

Toy labeling has 2 basic aspects. The first – safety labeling for hazards with small parts, balloons, or small balls that may present a choking risk – is mandatory. The second -developmental age-labeling – describes the age of the child for which the toy is intended, and sometimes has discretionary components. This aspect is more problematic to apply as there may be not only a customary chronological age that a toy is typically introduced, but also a developmental age-estimate, as well as a ‘targeted’ age at which the manufacturer intends for advertising (typically through child television viewing).

Testing done prior to marketing includes 1) small parts in a test cylinder (simulating a choking hazard), and 2) normal toy use/abuse (simulating what may happen if a toy is used inappropriately).

Significant concerns present in homes with 1) multigenerational families (as young children may have access to age-inappropriate toys), and 2) where there are developmentally challenged children. Appropriate toy-buying is helpful in reducing injuries, and parents should be aware of the potential hazards that may be caused by toys with sharp edges, heating elements, buttons, magnets and small batteries.  Furthermore, use of ride-on toys should be supervised in a safe area, and broken toys should either be repaired or discarded.

Please remember that there is no limit to the types of objects that children will use as “toys,” and parents should be mindful of a child’s imagination and creativity.


Nick Yates, M.D.

Woodstock Pediatric Medicine